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The Un-Post: Part Deux

January 16, 2012

A Brief Preamble

You get a double feature today, think of it as an apology for the late-ish posting. I say ‘late-ish’ because from here on I’ll be posting on Monday nights, not Sundays like I said last week. The first post for this week (this post) talks about some of the more scholarly obstacles posed by this format. The second post is a bit of short fiction.

And as a note, I couldn’t help but notice that last week I got about 5 hits for every person I gave this link to. This is still a very small amount of traffic, but it does mean that there are strange internet people reading this, whom I’ve never met.

Hello, strange internet people.

The First Part

I originally planned to post an essay about Terrance Malick’s version of The Thin Red Line, but when I read it over I realized the essay covered a lot more ground then I had thought. There were references ranging from Kant’s Critique of Pure Judgment to the 80’s action film The Running Man. While no single reference was too obscure, I decided that expecting my audience to have working knowledge of both Kant and Schwarzenegger was too much. There are plenty of people who know Kant, and plenty of people who know trash cinema, but few who know both. Because of this I started revising the essay, adding more context for academic and pop references alike. As I added context to references, I realized there was a bigger problem. The essay was full of technical terminology most people don’t know (my wife calls it ‘philoso-babble’). A lot of my writing, especially essays written in academic context, assume the reader is familiar with this vocabulary. It has nothing to do with intelligence, it’s about exposure. These words are the tools of a particular profession that most people find very boring.

I don’t want reading this site to be work. The goal is to post things that are, in some way, interesting to people who aren’t me. It turns out adding line after line of explanation to an already technical essay does not help with this. Long term it made even less sense. Would I add explanations for the same concept week after week? Would I cover each topic once, and make new people Google it? (Pro-tip: Google is really bad for this.) What if I posted an essay with even more technical content? How long would it get? If Sub-Zero is just Zero, has he become the Kantian Sublime?

One thing is certain: adding to a paper until every term and reference is explained makes it unreadable. The half-essay I worked through was basically wrecked. Whatever interesting things it contained before were buried under jargon that did nothing but explain more jargon. It read like a dictionary with footnotes.

But, you know what? This is the internet. It doesn’t need to fit on 10 to 20 double spaced pages. It doesn’t even need to be read in order. I’m still young, and I understand that this internet thing is supposed to come naturally. Still, these are the habits of an entire culture. I have to keep reminding myself that, in this space, I’m not limited by what can be done on paper.

So here’s the solution: at the top of the page, you’ll notice a new tab labeled “reference”. At the moment it doesn’t do much. It will eventually contain a miniature, tailor made reference library. Every time a term comes up that warrants discussion, I’ll make a page containing a brief explanation and links to any other relevant stuff. Whenever that term comes up in an essay for the first time, there will be a link to the reference page. Readers with no need for the note can just ignore it. I had considered linking to other sites with relevant information, but that pushes the reader back into work territory. By making the pages myself I can include only relevant information, so there’s no need to sort through the 5000 word wiki page. This is just as much for me as it is for you. My library is becoming slightly intimidating, and my own annotated card catalogue sounds great.

I’ll do the same for references. For any books, movies or articles there will be a link to their corresponding page with all the normal citation information, and links to any material legally available online (although some may be limited by subscriptions, a la Netflix instant).

I’ll try to have all this up next weekend, but I’m still learning my way around WordPress, so the technical stuff always seems to take longer than it should.

For now, here’s some stuff…

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